Countdown to Paydirt: vs. Arizona Cardinals

Still winless, the Raiders will play host for the second week in row as the Arizona Cardinal come to town.

The Cardinals bring former Raiders starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who returned from a shoulder injury last week. In his return, the veteran threw the ball 44 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Arizona has built a solid offense around Palmer, who has the veteran Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to throw to. Though Fitzgerald is having a down year so far, he’s coming off of a good game in which he hauled in six receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown. They will have to keep an eye on both wide receivers to limit the passing game from the Cardinals.

Oakland did a better job last week at defending the run, but will have another tough task this week as they look to contain Andre Ellington. Ellington is a speedy back that has the potential to break a big run at any given moment. With so much speed in the backfield, the Raiders linebackers will have to have strong gap discipline in order to limit the yards per carry.

The Raiders have struggled all season to get off the field on third down, ranking dead last in the NFL at just over 51 percent. Jason Tarver and his defense needs to find a way to force longer third downs and then get the stop so that the offense can get the ball back.

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr is coming off of his best game in the NFL, throwing for 282 yards and four touchdowns in the Raiders loss to the Chargers. Carr will be going up against another defense with a top-tier cornerback in Patrick Peterson. The young quarterback has shown that he’s not scared to attack a wide receiver, already going after Darrelle Revis and Brandon Flowers this year. It’s okay to attack them, but he needs to pick his spots and be careful of where he is since Peterson certainly possesses the ability to return a pick to the house.

The Raiders finally got the running game going last week, and it’ll be important for them to keep that going against the Cardinals and their depleted defense. It certainly won’t be an easy task as the Cardinals still hold the third-best rush defense in the league, despite all of their injuries along the defensive line.

Getting the running game going again will relieve a lot of pressure off of Carr and the passing game. Plus, it will open up some play-action plays that could turn into deep pass attempts like we saw last week.

Oakland will go back on the road following this week, taking on the Cleveland Browns in week eight and then Seattle Seahawks in week nine.

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